Is fluoride treatment necessary for adults?
The simple answer is yes, but before we get into the nitty-gritty of fluoride treatments, let’s remedy a misconception first; well a potential one.
Fluoride is no miracle cure for a neglected set of teeth. If your brushing routine is as regular as Australian wins in the FIFA World Cup (sorry) you probably have other issues to address first.
Yes, fluoride hardens tooth enamel making it more resistant to acids and, consequently cavities, decay and painful sensitivity. But relying on the occasional fluoride treatment to undo months of neglect is a bit like expecting a single Zumba session to fix a month devoted to burgers and fried chicken. It’s the proverbial ‘horse and gate’ scenario, only your horse hasn’t gone anywhere and your fluoride gate is only keeping that horse firmly corralled and kicking up a nasty storm in your mouth.
Anyway, let’s move on.
What exactly is a fluoride treatment?
When you brush your teeth with a fluoride-based toothpaste (as you should), that’s a fluoride treatment of sorts; one you should do after every meal.
However, a professionally applied fluoride treatment goes one step further. Well, quite a few steps as you have to deliver your teeth to a dentist via a process called walking.
The dentist will then fill your mouth with comfortable foam trays containing fluoride foams and ask you to bite down on these for about a minute. This forces fluoride into every nook and cranny in ways brushing can’t.
The excess fluoride is then suctioned out.
Can you eat after a fluoride treatment?
Thankfully yes; you can drink liquids as well, but not for at least 30 minutes. This allows all that enamel-hardening protection to settle in and get comfortable before we force it to do its job.
Are there any side effects of fluoride?
Aside from healthier teeth better equipped to fight cavities? Unfortunately yes. But this generally doesn’t apply to proper fluoride treatments offered by dentists. It applies to overzealous applications of fluoride toothpastes on toothbrushes.
If you (or your child’s) toothbrush resembles an impossibly overladen mule, you’re using way too much toothpaste; in fact, you might be overdosing on fluoride as a result and you could end up with what’s called dental fluorosis.
Dental fluorosis leaves your teeth discoloured and pitted and leads to the very dental treatment you’ve been so fastidiously trying to avoid. So yes, do use fluoride toothpaste, but cut right back on the ‘squeeze’ – a small amount is sufficient.
So who should get fluoride treatments?
If you’re more cavity-prone than seems fair, fluoride treatments can reduce the risk. Maybe you’re suffering from sensitive teeth, receding gum lines or wearing braces – fluoride treatments can help to keep your teeth healthy. Or maybe you have expensive crowns and bridges that could use a little extra protection to make them last.
Last, but far from least, fluoride treatments can fix overly dry mouth issues resulting from radiation treatments for cancer.